Come Away, Step Across the Tide

Avani Sudhakar

© Copyright 2021 by Avani Sudhakar

Photo by Ravit Sages on Unsplash
                Photo by Ravit Sages on Unsplash

Your journey begins across the beach.

Itís five oíclock, and the tide is still low. To your left, you have the murky green waters of the sea, and to your left, you have the brownish sands of the beach. Take off your shoes or sandals; roll up your trouser legs. You begin your trek on wet sand that the tide has shaped into lovely ridges. Be careful now; donít get blown back by the wind! Some travellers can barely make a dent in the ridges, but maybe you can do better. If you take a look at the sand, youíll see itís littered with almost every kind of seashell known to man.
As you get closer to the fort, the water level rises, and now the wind is actually bringing sea water onto your skin. If youíre wearing a skirt, itís best you gather them up in the hand thatís not holding your shoes. If you look down, youíll see a bit of white froth where your feet and splashing through the water, and the brownish-green water itself. If you chose to leave your skirt or trousers down, youíll have a fine time of it, wonít you?
Watch your step! With the water being so opaque, you canít see the terrain of the ground. Itís high here, and low here, and ow! You just stepped on a sharp seashell! Occasionally, the terrain rises high enough that you get a shadowy glimpse of your feet again, before sinking back into the depths.
Now comes the hard part. Be very glad you came before the tide returned. Before you stretches a wide patch of broken down stone, with clusters of rock oysters and really sharp pointy rocks. Put your shoes back on, and tread carefully. Itís wet, so you donít want to slip and fall. Also, the mud has a tendency to suck and hold onto anything thatís not firmly connected to you, so tie those sandals on tightly. You have a bit of climbing to do to get on level with the fort, but nothing more than climbing three or four steps on a staircaseÖ just one thatís not well cut out.

Flip-flops are a BAD idea, but youíre smart, youíll be fine!

Up safely? Walk forward a bit and you come to the gate. Indians pay Rs. 5, and foreigners pay Rs. 100, or $2. So check your melanin count and cough up the required dough. Now, youíll take a walk along the old fort wall. As you stroll past the ancient brown rocks, you might not notice that the stones are ingrained with seashells. At first, it seems like the rock is simply dark brown speckled with white, but as you get closer, itís really seashells! After hundreds of years of lashed by the sea and the high tides, the seashells became a permanent part of the fort. Who knows? Maybe the rocks even had seashells to begin with. They had to come from nearby, after all.
Now moving on, you come to a family taking pictures of their little boy. The boy is actually sitting on 1600ís cannons. If you look closely, the now pink-red-and-brown cannons and embossed with the words ĎHardy and Dawson Ironworksí and, on the base, ĎYorkshireí. Youíll have to remember that the English had colonized India for several centuries before achieving she won her freedom Ė and that legacy remains.
As you turn onto the next wall, youíll get a view of the sea and beach beyond the fort. Youíll see a few people wandering through the rock pools, stopped over, and occasionally picking something up. These people are looking for rock oysters, crabs, shrimp, and anything they can find that could be used for the nightís food. Their homes were to your left as you paid at the gate, and if you look back now, you can see the metal sheets that serve as the roofs and backs of their houses, and their clothes hanging on a clothes wire. You might even catch a glimpse of a kid bathing, or a girl washing clothes.
But, your attention is directed elsewhere. Just beyond the next battle tower you hear a very interesting noise. Di-di-di-did-he-do-it?

Watch your step, the ledge next to the curved tower is only a few inches wide, but the drop down is several times your size. Made it safely over?


Just ahead of you is the source of the interesting noise: a red-wattled lapwing. It is smaller than a pigeon, with gray, white, and black plumage similar in pattern to a bluejayís. Itís legs, however, are something else entirely. They are about twice as long as a normal birdís legs, thin, and pale yellow. As it flies off with the wind, you stop, and take a deep breath.

Everything around you is a blanket of green, interrupted only by the tallest rocks, and the edges of the brown walls.

About seventy-five meters ahead, you see a small hill-like formation, only to discover itís just an upraised pedestal. You climb up the stairs and take a seat. The wind from the sea whistles past you and dries off your clothes.

You can see the entire fort before you.

In the very center is a white-and-pink domed structure surrounded by trees Ė a still-functioning temple. The trees surrounding it are worn and gnarled by the wind. One in particular looks like it has a giant hole in the middle of it, but it is only an effect of the wind. Though you donít know it yet, that tree is a pagoda tree. Beside it is a cluster fig, and further beyond it, beyond your sight, is a drumstick tree. Murungakai, South Indians call it, a delicious staple of lentil stews.
Pull your gaze away now, and you may just see the giant water reservoir adjacent to the temple. This was once the fortís main source of fresh water

(Water, water everywhere, nor any a drop to drink.)

Now, no oneís using the water, and it has mixed with the sea and rainwater and fallen prey to eutrophication. You know what eutrophication is, donít you? Remember that slimy green sludge you learned about back in seventh grade? Of course you do. You know eutrophication is when algae grows too quickly and uses up all the oxygen in the water. This makes the water uninhabitable, and the excess amount of algae makes it unfit to drink, as well - a natural process, which, like any natural process, can be devastating if unchecked.
On your other side, almost exactly opposite the temple, you see a slightly rectangular shape framed by a wall. This is where all the old ships used to dock. There is a small building on top off the wall, but that is relatively new. Itís probably just a lookout house.
Anyhow, you get up off your bum and begin walking again. You walk down the step and you come to a somewhat well-crafted staircase again. You climb up the five steps and are face with a choice. A few meters in front of you is a ledge leading to a lower path, or you can stay on your current path. Take a hop three feet off the ledge Ė donít hurt yourself! Ė so you can traipse through a patch of weeds until your destination: a giant stone archway with straight sides and a domed top that comes to a point. As you get close to it, you can see it engraved with elephants, a trademark of India. As you go through it, you see on either side that there are deep insets in to brown, seashell-speckled rock, where the sentries would stand with their guns poised. You go out of the entrance and balance carefully on the rocks beyond.

Watch out, thatís a long and painful drop!
If you look back, which you will definitely do, seeing as you have nowhere else to go, you will see and engraving of crocodiles and lotuses at the very top of the archway. The crocodiles represent the Navy, and the lotus is Indiaís national flower. Just beneath that, youíll see an engraving of the elephant god, Ganesha, who signifies good beginnings. To the right side of the archway, youíll see an engraving of the monkey god Hanuman, and to the right, what could be a local deity hugging a fish.

So much history and symbolism packed into a few square feet of stone!
You scramble back over the rocks and back to the wall. You make your way through the throng of tourists who have miraculously appeared and you wind your way towards the temple. You pass the water reservoir, the drumstick tree, and the houses. It should be anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half since you first entered, and the tide is returning quickly. The field of rock oysters and sharp pointy rocks you crossed is now almost completely submerged. As tempting as it is to hop onto one of the horse-drawn carriages, thatís not where the journey takes you.
As you struggle painfully through the rocks, clinging onto to whoever or whatever happens to be nearby, keep in mind that the end is near, soon you can walk on the lovely, yet completely invisible sandy beach. Once youíre past that, itís really just a matter of putting on your shoes and walking back to the hotel.

Wasnít that a lovely outing? What do you mean you donít have a hotel reservation?!

I am a former biochemist and current part-time policy advisor looking to spread my wings and try out some different kind of writing. I love to travel, immerse myself in fantasy, and eagerly await the day the world gets concrete proof dragons exist.

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